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Cooking with gas

Power Maxed Racing’s rookie sensation Josh Cook enjoyed a breakthrough weekend at Rockingham last time out, as the 24-year-old grabbed his first ever Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship podium in race two.

It was an impressive turnaround from a difficult time for the Chevrolet racer a couple of weeks earlier at Knockhill. “We knew we wouldn’t be overly strong at Knockhill compared to the smaller hatchbacks,” said Cook. “It was very difficult for us there but equally we were confident we would have a good package for Rockingham. The circuit is fast and flowing, with a couple of hairpin corners, plus we had also had a recent test at Donington Park.”

Saturday at Rockingham was an incredibly close affair, culminating in a qualifying session that saw the top 19 cars covered by just three quarters of a second. Cook was right in the mix, and continued, “We showed great pace in FP2, really strong over a race distance. Qualifying was a tough one though. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones but we had set our two fastest sectors when the red flag came out, and that was that. We probably should have been in the P6-P8 area but we had to settle for 12th in the end.

“Qualifying is insanely competitive but I feel like I’ve been dialled in as a driver. I’m not fazed by the process – back in Clios I went out, set a time and then sat in the pits for the rest of the session with pole position, so I feel like I know how to get the job done, but it is really tough at this level. It’s something we’re working on as we maybe just don’t quite have the car underneath us for qualifying.”

Sunday saw the #66 Chevrolet make rapid progress up the order. “I had a great start and seemed to be up to P5 before I knew it, which helped to forget qualifying,” commented Cook. “I was fighting with Tom Ingram initially and it was really enjoyable. Thankfully I was able to set a decent lap time before the soft tyres started to go off, as I just couldn’t quite hold on and we slipped back near the finish. Thankfully it worked out as we had no weight and the right compound for the next race, and maybe we wouldn’t have been able to produce the surge through the field without that.”

Cook’s was undoubtedly the drive of the second race, as starting from 14th the Power Maxed-backed racer blasted through the order and ended up in a last lap tussle with Adam Morgan for his first ever rostrum finish. Josh said, “My plan was simply to get through the first few laps without damage and keep out of trouble. I looked after the car and I was able to pick my way past a number of rivals, particularly those that ran the soft tyre. I knew where they would be vulnerable as I’d had the same issues myself in race one.

“The fight with Adam was great. I could see he was struggling on the brakes in particular areas and we ran side-by-side through the penultimate corner and he sort of pushed me out wide on the exit. I could have pushed back but I just thought I’d regroup and go again. I didn’t realise it was the last lap to be honest so I didn’t plan for it to be as dramatic as it was! It was great a moment though and testament to everyone involved.”

It has been a notable debut campaign for the Bath-based youngster, who has now reached an unassailable points lead in the Jack Sears Trophy standings for 2015’s crop of rookies. Cook is particularly pleased to be keeping the trophy in the Power Maxed Racing camp, as stable-mate Dave Newsham took JST honours last year. He concluded, “The programme came together late with Media Day being the first time I drove the car. It’s a development year for the team and I, so I think it’s fair to say it has been successful. The level of exposure in the BTCC is fantastic so to have secured the Jack Sears Trophy is a real honour, particularly as we’ve done it after eight of ten events and I’ve taken the title from my team-mate Dave Newsham!

“It’s a real tough call to predict who’ll win the championship overall. Jason [Plato], Gordon [Shedden] and all the usual suspects will be there. Sam Tordoff had a really good mid-season and looked as if he could be the one to gatecrash the party. It seems he had a bit of a tough weekend at Rockingham, but we’ll see. It’ll definitely go down to the wire.”

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